Movie Review: Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs

E: If you walk out of Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs without a coherent thought in your head, well, you would not be the only one.  Part of me still whirls with the completely awesome, whimsical insanity of it all.  Part of me is trying to figure out the whole “let your freak flag fly” message.  Part of me wants to hightail it to the library to check out the classic children’s book on which it was based.  And part of me wants to run screaming because my inner English major keeps coming up with horrific Freudian interpretations of just about everything in the movie.

Mental and sensory overload, that’s what.  Too much of a good thing, and maybe not enough of others, which comes out as pretty alright in the end.

The premise is delightfully original, and the lead character, Flint Lockwood, charms in a unique and specific way.  So all that’s good. The film, as you probably know, tells the story of a hapless inventor (brilliant but poorly directed) whose creations seem awesome on the surface (spray on shoes and hair) but turn out to have unpleasant side effects.  Or, like the rat birds, are just a bad idea to begin with.  He makes everything he thinks of; he just has trouble coming up with an actually practical and useful idea.  And so he’s a bit of an outcast in a very gray, very provincial town.

When he accidentally makes it rain food, however, all that changes.  He’s taken advantage of by the evil, grasping little mayor, and the essentially goodhearted but hilariously overzealous police officer (played by Mister T!), and he enjoys the attention.  He especially enjoys meeting perky weather intern Sam Sparks, out on her first big assignment, who hides an inner nerd underneath a stylish exterior. So things are great, until his invention (never perfectly practical) goes horribly wrong.

The ways in which it goes wrong are hilarious and awe-inspiring. Be warned, however, that if you have a kid who scares easily, everyday food does become more than a bit alarming by the end of the final adventure sequence.  There’s something approximating a death star, for instance, and some really threatening (and insanely Freudian) – ah, but that would be telling.

I went with 5 small children, to a matinee in a theater full of small children.  And in general, those kids were pretty happy.  Maybe not in love, but mostly happy.  And the adults were pretty pleased, too; there are sly humorous asides, and terrific voice work from the likes of Bill Hader and Anna Faris (as the leads), and Neil Patrick Harris, the aforementioned Mister T, and Al Roker as a smug (what else) weatherman.  And there’s very little more magical than a world where it snows ice cream for your birthday.  If you want to look a bit more deeply, the movie is less satisfying.  Is the movie about finding your moral center?  That if we don’t get the love we need from our parents, we’ll look in inappropriate places?  The movie essentially tries to be a lot deeper than it is, and throws themes, like so many strands of uncooked spaghetti, on the walls to see what sticks.  There’s not much attempt at resolution of any of these grand themes; I’m thinking they’d have been better off not trying quite so hard.  How empty are the calories?   Though the movie is candy colored, it’s better for you than that.  Wonder Bread, maybe.  Tasty for kids, nostalgic for adults, not health food, not poison.

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9 comments on “Movie Review: Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs

  1. C says:

    Wonder Bread IS empty calories. No nutrition in it… it’s filler food.

    • E says:

      So it FEELS more like food than candy, anyway.

      • E says:

        What would be a better metaphor? Olive loaf? Questionable, with a lot of mysterious stuff it in? A cheese burger? Chicken nuggets? Maybe I was just seduced by the name Wonder Bread. Seemed appropriate.

        • M says:

          If your olive loaf is a Bloom County reference, then I whole-heartedly applaud. If its not, well, real olive loaf is a nasty concoction, and I’ll second McNuggets.

  2. Jeff says:

    Al Roker: “the storm seems to be first hitting all major worldwide tourist attractions first and then spreading out”.

    I loved that. Reminded me of Independence Day.

    • E says:

      I adored that. I thought the characters were uniformly fun and well drawn. It was the attempt to attach a moral to it that I thought didn’t work.

  3. Krizzzz says:

    Not having seen the movie, I can’t comment on the “Wonder Bread” vs. “Olive Loaf” debate (although I’m going to scratch my head all day trying to remember olive loaf in Bloom County, and it’s going to bother me until I get home to look through ALL my collection to find some). I’m enjoying the discussion, but I feel compelled to say that I’ve never eaten olive loaf in my life, and I don’t know why human beings would invent such a thing. Then again, my people invented haggis. And…I like it.

    But, I digress. E, for sheer aesthetics, I have to say: your spaghetti strand metaphor? Elegance on a plate, my dear. Well spun.

  4. thepresidentrix says:

    I grew up with this book. It was one of our favorites, in fact, and I highly recommend it, even though I suspect it has next to nothing in common with the movie. Other than the title, that is. ;o9

    Obviously, a book isn’t the best medium for action scenes (so it won’t have a bounce house entirely made out of jell-o, for example – I saw that on a clip show), but the illustrations are really singular. There’s a retro feel to the grainy, gently tinted, almost wood-cutty pictures. It’s a lot of fun.

    But probably totally different.

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